Telluride vs. Toronto: Forced to Pick One Fest or Other

As a festival strategist it is my job to find the right festivals for my clients whether it be an independent producer or a boutique distributor. But my job has suddenly got interesting thanks to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Upset that films they had accepted as premieres were sneak-screening in Telluride, Toronto Int’l Film Fest organizers say they will no longer screen any films that have already been seen elsewhere within first four days of their festival. What does this really mean for filmmakers/distributors simply this “ they can’t sneak-screen their new films at the Telluride Film Festival which consist of a small gathering of cineastes that has taken place every Labor Day weekend since 1973 in a remote ski resort town high in the Rocky Mountains. Instead they will have to choose Telluride or TIFF north of the American border – TIFF which has grown into one of the largest film festivals in the world since its first installment in 1975, for an “official” North American or world premiere.

Cameron Bailey

TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey with Anita Majumdar – Midnight’s Children

In an article with indie wire last fall TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey stated that “All films playing in the first four days of the festival must be world premiere or North American premieres,” he states. “‘World premiere’ means the first public screening of the film anywhere in the world. ‘North American premiere’ means the first public screening anywhere in Canada, the United States or Mexico. Invited films that screen elsewhere in North America prior to their Toronto screening will be scheduled from the Monday of our festival onward. In additional the festival’s Opening Night film must be a world premiere. The closing night film must be a world or international premiere.”


Sadly, as bias as it may seem I have to agree with TIFF on this decision. TIFF is in the best position to make such a request based on its long standing track record of having the most films along with actors/directors nominated in the awards season. Also this move opens TIFF to the new promising directors…many who have already taken the back seat to Ken Burns, Alexander Payne or ‎Herzog all loyalist to Telluride for different reasons. However, Canadian filmmakers may need to be loyal… tow the line so to speak towards TIFF – but I fear the only filmmakers that will be affected the most are the Canadians should they choose the other. Many Canadian films aren’t as successful at home with either acquiring finance or from box office draw. They may want to head to Telluride to be among the Americans for the option of further financing of future projects. Whatever the choice, TIFF will continue to have a larger media presence and the continued support of the festival goers in September.

However, the mere 4 day shift in the festival schedule will only be felt by distributors not the average festival attendee should they choose to ignore TIFF premier status for the opening weekend. Would love to hear your thoughts on the matter?

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See you in Cannes or at the movies!



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